Wayne Rooney delivered another masterclass as Wigan meekly surrendered to Manchester United for the second time this season.
Sir Alex Ferguson has argued for years that if his side are within touching distance of top spot on New Year's Day they will take some stopping.
And not only are they only two points adrift of Chelsea, they have almost achieved parity in the goal difference column too after another five-goal mauling of the hapless Latics, who seem ill equipped to survive a relegation scrap.
Former Wigan star Antonio Valencia had a productive night, claiming three assists and scoring the final Premier League goal of 2009 against his old club.
But Rooney was the main man, opening United's account with his 15th goal of the season and getting himself right to the heart of a performance Wigan could not have complained about if it had brought the hosts double figures.
Long before they turned trophy collection into an art form, one of the things United liked most was to face lower rated opponents prepared to take them on at football.
They would leave Old Trafford with the plaudits of Sir Alex Ferguson ringing in their ears, as well as the cheers of home supporters ecstatic at witnessing a one-sided goal fest.
Clearly, Roberto Martinez has not been doing his homework.
Hammered by five goals on home soil in August, Martinez made the short journey across Greater Manchester for the return, committed to the same open style, which could quite easily get Wigan relegated.
The wonder was it took United almost half an hour to open their account.
A flurry just beforehand had involved Chris Kirkland turning a Rooney blockbuster wide and Paul Scharner booting a Nemanja Vidic effort of the line.
Following that, Rooney's audacious shot from the most acute angle imaginable bounced back to Kirkland off the far post, the Wigan keeper having been completely bamboozled by the initial effort.
Finally, Dimitar Berbatov, who had started the bombardment by racing onto Rooney's through ball and getting chopped down in the box by Titus Bramble without winning a penalty, fluffed a chip when he was clean through.
At that stage, there must have been a temptation for Wigan to think they would survive. How foolish that would have been.
It will not cross Ferguson's attention that much but an entire nation of football watchers is following his main man at the moment, crossing their fingers he can deliver World Cup glory to England.
Undoubtedly he is having his best season and it was the former Everton striker who stole in at the near post to meet Rafael Da Silva's cross and steer it past Kirkland to break the deadlock.
Three minutes later Michael Carrick swept home the second after Valencia had shown enough vision to cut a pass back into his path rather than drill a cross into crowded penalty area.
On nights like these, the former Wigan man is a powerful force. And with Rafael charging forward on the overlap, the Latics could not resist.
Rafael's only previous goal came in a disappointing defeat at Arsenal last year. This time, after collecting Darren Fletcher's pass and showing nimble feet to create space for himself on the edge of the area before drilling past Kirkland, he had more of a reason to celebrate with twin Fabio, who pumped the air with joy from the bench, although he was ultimately to share a pitch with his brother for the first time in a league game.
A change of keeper at the break as Mike Pollitt replaced the luckless Kirkland, failed to bring a change of fortune for the visitors.
Valencia skipped past Maynor Figueroa as if he was not there, then crossed into the space Hendry Thomas was supposed to be filling before he fell over. Berbatov controlled instantly and stabbed his shot into the far corner.
Memories of that nine-goal humiliation at Tottenham were coming back to haunt Martinez and his men.
If Rooney had managed to find the net when he got on the end of Berbatov's chip instead of thundering a header against the bar, a repeat may have been on the cards.
Instead, United were forced to wait until the 76th minute, after Ferguson had made a triple substitution, for Rooney to drive into the heart of Wigan's defences before sending Valencia through superbly to chip home a fifth.Reuse content